It’s not every day that a trip to the dentist leads to a diagnosis of PKD. But this is exactly what happened to Claire Pullinger, who’d expected nothing more than the removal of amalgam fillings.
Claire, 49 at the time was loving life in London working as a documentary photographer, keeping fit by running, meditation and a vegan diet. She had no family history of the disease, and other than episodes of flank pain in her thirties – which one doctor thought to be kidney stones – PKD wasn’t suspected.
“I even had a scan to check for kidney stones” says Claire “but was told there were no signs of them or anything of concern”
It then came as a big surprise when years later her dentist - concerned that her gums showed signs of anaemia - advised her to get a blood test. Anaemia can occur in the early stages of kidney disease and gets worse as kidneys fail. Kidneys are powerful machines that not only remove waste and toxins from the body, but also release hormones that regulate blood pressure, produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes healthy bones, and control production of red blood cells.
A blood test and an ultrasound scan did in fact confirm that Claire does have PKD. Although PKD is an inherited disease, meaning it is passed on from parents through their genes, in about 10 to 15 out of every 100 people with PKD, there is no known family history. This may be due to a new mutation ocurring for the first time in a patient.
The diagnosis of a disease that Claire had never heard of, and the knowledge that she'd lost 60% of kidney function by that time, was a lot for her to take in.
Still, she's grateful for the diligence of her dentist and for the chance to change pace.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride. Despite being in shock at first, trying to piece together what PKD meant to my future, it also gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my life, get my priorities straight and live life even more to the full. I’ve developed a greater love for nature and feel blessed to be surrounded by loving family and friends.” explains Claire, who now lives and works in Dorset as a gardener and meditation teacher.